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PARSHAT TRUMAH – PRAYING IN HOLY PLACES

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Trumah (Exodus 25:1-27:19 )

This week’s Torah portion outlines the building of the Tabernacle (Mishkan), a holy Sanctuary where G-d’s presence dwelled. Rashi describes the Tabernacle as a “House of Holiness1.” It is well-known that the Tabernacle and later, the Temple, was the place where people came to offer Sacrifices, yet it is also evident that the Tabernacle was also a Holy place where prayers were more powerful and more readily heard.

This is seen in the Book of Samuel where the childless Chana does not suffice with praying at home, rather she goes to the Tabernacle in Shiloh to pray for a child and her prayers are granted.2 The commentaries note that this concept is not limited to the Tabernacle, rather any place of exalted holiness is easier for prayers to be received. We see this in Vayetsei, where the Torah relates that Yaakov prayed in the place that would be the place of the Temple. Rashi elaborates that this was the place where Avraham and Yitzchak prayed. Yaakov initially went past that place without praying, but then realized that his fathers and prayed there, and he exclaimed that he must also pray in such a holy place.

The following story3 takes this idea even further. Rabbi Yosef Buxbaum recounted a story about the Tchebiner Rav, Rabbi Dov Berish Weidenfeld who was known as one of the greatest Rabbis and Righteous men of his times. He lived in the Shaarei Chessed neighbourhood in Jerusalem. Rabbi Buxbaum was once walking in Jerusalem when he passed by the house of the Tchebiner Rav when he saw a surprising sight. He saw the great Tzaddik, Rabbi Aryeh Levin, crying and praying outside the Rabbi’s house. Rav Buxbaum walked over to Rabbi Levin and asked why he was crying. “Are you in pain? Why are you are standing in front of the Tchebiner Rav’s house, crying?”

Rabbi Levin told him that one of his children was sick. “If I could go to the Kotel Ma’aravi (Western Wall), I would go. (This was pre-1967, when the Jews did not have access to the Old City of Jerusalem or the Kotel) Since I cannot get to the Kosel, I need to pray in another holy place. The Tchebiner Rav’s house is that holy place.”

This is what Rashi means here “You shall make for me a Sanctuary” – a House of Holiness! If someone thinks of all the Torah that was learned in the house of the Tchebiner Rav and the kindness that was done there and the righteousness that was practiced there – the Tchebiner Rav’s house was a holy place. If the Western Wall was not available, a person could at least go to this holy place to pray.

Rabbi Yissachar Frand continues the story:

“Rav Buxbaum was so impressed with what Rav Aryeh Levin told him that he went and related the conversation to the great Gadol, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, who also lived in the Shaarei Chessed neighbourhood. Rav Shlomo-Zalman reacted without astonishment “Certainly that is appropriate. I, too, whenever I pass by that holy dwelling place, lift my eyes heavenward in prayer.” Rav Shlomo Zalman also used the opportunity of being in the proximity of such a makom kadosh (holy place) to petition the Almighty in prayer. Which person does not say a Tefilla when he goes to the Kotel. Religiously sensitive individuals considered the holy home of the Tchebiner Rav a similarly holy place.”

Another point can be derived from the sources above. If praying in a place where a Tzaddik lives or prayed in the past is more effective, then all the more so, praying in the vicinity of a Tzaddik himself is also very powerful. The Chatam Sofer proves this from the aforementioned episode of Chana’s prayer. The Chatam Sofer notes that Chana did not suffice with praying in the Tabernacle, rather she deliberately prayed while in very close proximity to the righteous Kohen Gadol, Eli. We learn from here the benefits of praying near a Tzaddik. In this vein, Rav Elchanan Wasserman would travel to Radin for the High Holy Holidays in order to be close to his great Rebbe, the Chofetz Chaim. And after the Chofetz Chaim passed away, he would travel to the great Yeshiva of Kelm for the High Holy Days. In addition to the meta-physical gains of praying near a Tzaddik, on a more practical level, seeing a Tzaddik during his Divine service can serve to elevate one’s own prayer. In a similar vein, it is well-known that Chassidim join their Rebbe on holy days as well.

We have seen the power of praying in holy places and near holy people. May being in these places elevate our prayers and our spiritual level.

By Rabbi Yehonasan Gefen

Notes

  1. Shemos, 25:8.
  2. Shmuel Aleph, 1:9.
  3. Cited by Rav Yissachar Frand shlit’a in the name of Rav Yosef Buxbaum zt”l.


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